1000 Lifetimes Ch. 01-06bybzarajic©
The sun streamed through the slats of the wooden window blinds catching the edge of the pillow. He felt the warmth on his chin and slowly opened his eyes. He rolled over slightly onto his back and rubbed his right eye with his right hand as he adjusted to the light in the room. Slowly he sat up onto his elbows, dragged the thin sheet barely covering his body to one side and swung his legs so he sat on the edge of the bed.
She moved slightly, in the bed next to him, but still asleep so he got up and walked over to the window. He parted two of the slats with his hands and looked out. The sun was bright and warm and the street below the window was bustling with life. He could smell the fresh bread from the bakery below the apartment and smiled. Today would be a good day.
He walked to the bathroom and turned the shower on and jumped inside. He loved the feel of warm water caressing his skin and he poured a large pool of vanilla shower gel into his hand then rubbed it over his muscled body and finally his shoulder length brown hair. He washed the sweat from last night's final sexual adventure from his body but not his memory.
When he finished he reached for a fluffy white bath towel and dried his hair first then his body before dropping the towel in the bath. He went back to the bedroom and followed the debris field of their passion that contained his clothes. Putting each piece on as he found them till finally he found his grey silk and cashmere V-neck sweater and indigo stonewash jeans. He quickly found his Bowery button boots and reached for his leather motorcycle vest. He pushed his damp hair back and crept back towards the bedroom.
He walked to her side of the bed and dropped to his knees. He looked at her fast asleep and took in the full image of her beauty. He drank in the view of her lithe body, the long legs, flat and slightly muscled stomach, the pert breasts and the swan like neck that he had enjoyed for fifteen months. He smiled as he looked at her chiselled chin, firm pouty lips, almond eyes and slim elf like nose. He bent down and kissed her fully on the lips causing her to open her eyes so he could see the star shine of her brown eyes one more time. She moved her slender right hand to touch his left cheek. He drank in the warmth of her long fingers as they moved and grabbed for his hair to pull his face down to kiss level. He could smell the lavender scent of the shampoo she had used to wash her long strawberry blonde hair and felt at peace and safe. He pulled himself away the thought of what he had to do meant that he needed to make this a short but beautiful final goodbye.
"Is it morning already?" she asked him as he kissed the palm of her right hand.
"Its still early, 7.00, but I have to go. The sun is out and I think it will be a beautiful day so you should go back to sleep. You're a beautiful woman Cathy and I love you remember that."
"Ok honey. See you tonight don't forget its Maddie's birthday party," she smiled and then kissed him again and rolled away from him onto her right side nestling back into the plump pillow.
"Sure," shit he had forgotten it was her sister's birthday but he knew it had to be today.
He got up and walked to the doorway of the bedroom, turned and took one last look at her. He knew she loved him, but more importantly he knew he loved her and he knew that was the most dangerous thing he could do. So he blew her an invisible and final kiss and walked to the door of her apartment. He hesitated took a deep breath and told himself you have to do this. He picked up his crash helmet from the table by the door, removed the security chain and turned the doorknob and walked out closing the door behind him. He stood for a moment touching the familiar dark wood door one last time. He took the key from his vest pocket and posted it through the letterbox and heard it hit the bottom of the mailbox cage the other side. He closed his eyes hard to stop a tear and walked away from the door, along the corridor and down the three flights of stairs.
He walked to the apartment blocks outer metal door pulled the bolt and handle and walked out across the road to where he had parked the Ducati Diavel Cromo. He put on his helmet and got on the bike and drove off.
He went straight to the lock up garage he had leased two weeks ago. He stopped parked up, opened the door of the garage and then drove the bike in. The garage was filled with all the boxes of personal items he wanted kept safe until they could be forwarded on to their final destination by the removal company he had hired. He double-checked everything was there then left leaving the key with the supervisor.
He walked off to the main road and got a taxi to take him to the location where he had chosen York-Dauphin subway station on the Market-Frankford line. He had chosen this station because there was no ticket sales office so there were less passengers walking around. He walked to the end of the platform and waited for the Frankford bound train to clatter towards him and as it came in he simply walked forward then jumped off the platform into its path.
The last week had been hard on Cathy. She still couldn't accept that Ethan had calmly left that day and committed suicide. They were so happy or so she thought. But the coroner had read the suicide note Ethan had left, at the hotel he had moved into just days before he killed himself, and it told a different story. She didn't even know he had sold his apartment and moved to the Omni Hotel. But it seemed the man she had met fifteen months ago didn't exist anyway.
He hadn't worked at the law firm he told her he had, he had lived on his own fortune of $180,000 that now belonged to her. He had left her everything he had even the proceeds from the sale of his apartment. There was no evidence to show Ethan Hallways ever lived except for 2 days in Canada, in 1936, when a car accident claimed the life of a boy and his parents the victims having the same names of her Ethan and his family. He simply didn't exist.
Now she stood at the edge of a hole at Laurel Hill Cemetery where they had just lowered the coffin that contained the man she knew as Ethan Hallways dead body. Her beautiful lover was gone forever and she had to walk away and start her life again knowing how miserable he really had been and that he was a fake. In the suicide note he had said it wasn't her fault. He just woke up one day and realised he didn't love her and didn't want to carry on with a life he found no pleasure in living.
Her sister Maddie and her husband Scott were waiting patiently, by the black limo, they had been great to her even though Ethan had chosen Maddie's birthday to jump in front of a none stopping subway train. Scott had organised everything exactly as Ethan had detailed in his will. Scott had even identified Ethan's body, and told Cathy not to go and see it. Now they waited to take her to their home for a few days to try and come to terms with everything that had happened. She threw the single white rose she had brought with her on top of the coffin, said goodbye and walked off never to return to the sad final location of their tragic love affair.
Gabriel Rochefaure woke up in total darkness and gasped for air. The air was stale and the initial pain of breathing hurt as it always did. He moved his hands from across his chest to find the catches he always asked for. He found them, pulled and the lid catches flipped up and he pushed upwards. It was always tough but eventually he felt the damp earth coming in through the gap now forming at the side of the lid. He knew the earth above him was moving. He used all his power to finally pushed through the thin layer of earth on top of the coffin.
He always left instructions to be buried, not cremated, and be buried within four days of his death. The regeneration would begin as soon as he died and take between five and seven days to complete. He had done his research as always and knew that at Laurel Hill the hole would not be fully filled until a week after the funeral so he had an easy escape from the coffin this time. He made sure the lid was fixed back firmly and that the earth covered it so no one would be suspicious. He took one last look at the hole and said goodbye to the identity that had served him well for ten years. Ethan Hallways was now confined to the past and Gabriel had to move on again.
Cathy had followed his wishes well. He had been buried dressed in simple jeans, t-shirt, trainers and sweater. He shook himself so any soil still on him fell off. He walked off towards the back of the cemetery where there was a low wall and he climbed over and walked to find a cab. He asked to be taken to the rented garage and asked the driver to wait. He got the duplicate key he had made, and hidden in the drainage pipes nearby, and unlocked the garage, got some money and returned to pay the taxi driver.
He returned to the garage. He found his new identity cards, passport, money and bankcards. He was now Nate Golding from Daytona Beach, Florida. He had a small suitcase stored at the airport ready and later tonight he would be on a plane back to Europe. The bike would be going back to the company he hired it from; he just had to drop it off on route. He loved it and knew he would buy a new one when he reached his final destination.
It was 1.30am and he needed to hydrate so plenty of water, a coffee and some food. He always needed to eat and drink within a few hours of returning to the world of the living and he knew an all night diner where no one knew him. He got on the bike and drove straight there. He had two orders of pancakes, bacon, eggs, toast, two one litre bottles of sparkling water and rounded it all off with three cups of coffee. He wasted some time talking to the waitress about everything and nothing but at 3.30 he left and drove to an all night pharmacy where he bought hair colour remover so he could return to his hair to its natural blonde colour.
He needed an hour for the colour remover to work so sat quietly and looked at the photo of Cathy he had kept in his wallet. It had been taken last month when they visited Florida and where he had started to develop his new identity. He had known then that he probably didn't have too much time left. He thought maybe another six months but when Cathy narrowly escaped being shot by a bank robber he knew he had to move on.
As soon as he met Cathy he knew he should walk away she wasn't like the other women she was a keeper. He kept telling himself one more day and days turned to months and pretty soon he was in love with her and he knew it would just be a matter of time before the curse kicked in. He knew he had to destroy the picture, he now held so tightly, he couldn't keep it experience told him the pain of the memory would be too much. So he took it to the bathroom put it in the basin and set light to it with a match. He watched the image bubble, burn and turn to ash. As always he didn't allow him self to cry and scooped the ash up put it in the bin and ran the tap to clean the remnants of the ash from the basin.
He washed the chemicals out of his hair by having a shower. It was now 4.45 he needed to sleep. It always amazed him that having been dead for a few days and effectively resting he needed an excessive amount of sleep.
He woke up late in the afternoon and dressed in the new set of clothes he had brought with him from the garage. He needed to eat again and there was a burger bar just around the corner. Once he had eaten he would need to check all the arrangements and then and he had two more drops to make. The clothes he had been buried in would have to go and he knew they would be welcome with the down and outs of Philadelphia.
His arrangements were finalised the removal company would pack his personal items held in the garage into a crate and ship them it would be around three to four weeks before they arrived. His flight ticket was confirmed and ready for pick-up at the airport. It was now 7.30pm and after dropping the clothes he drove to the leasing company outlet near the airport and gave the bike back. Then he got a taxi straight to the airport, picked up his suitcase and his first class seat to El Prat airport, Barcelona where his new life was setup and ready to go. It would be good to be back in Europe after spending 125 years in North America.
This was his life and had been since he had been cursed centuries before. He got his boarding pass and walked to the departure gate and the plane. Once in his seat he felt relief that it had all gone as planned and he was taken back all those years to when his nightmare existence had begun.
Gabriel Rochefaure had been born in Poitiers, in the Duchy of Aquitaine in 1127 to Comte Henri Rochefaure, a distant cousin of the then Duke of Aquitaine, and his wife Matilda a niece of the Duke of Austria. Gabriel was the eldest son of the union however his mother was the fourth wife of the Comte who had six sons and three daughters from his first three marriages. Gabriel was therefore not the heir.
The family owned lands in the County of Edessa in the Holy Land the first Crusader state founded by Baldwin of Boulogne in 1098 as part of the First Christian Crusade. In 1146 Edessa fell to the Turk warlord Zengi an event that triggered Pope Eugene III to announce that a Second Christian Crusade would be launched to recover the territory. Unlike the first crusade European Kings would lead this one. Gabriel's father offered his sons as knights for the joint campaign of King Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany to retake Edessa.
Gabriel, his 15-year-old brother Sebastian and three of his half brothers, Simian, Henri and Thierry were volunteered to fight by their father. The Comte had been particularly honoured when Henri was chosen to join a detachment affiliated to an order of the Knights Templar.
Gabriel found himself departing for the war at Metz in June 1147 at the age of 20 as part of the French force. The French and German forces marched separately across Europe crossing Byzantine and Anatolia. Each army fought battles with various Muslim factions until they reached Jerusalem in 1148. Gabriel had fought and survived many times but sadly witnessed the deaths of Simian to wound fever and Thierry and Sebastian, within an hour of each other, on Christmas Eve 1147, at the battle at Ephesus.
In July 1148 Gabriel and Henri found themselves part of an ill-advised attack on Damascus where the Christian army suffered defeat at the hands of Nur ad-Din and Saif ad-Din. Gabriel had fought hard, and well, during the many skirmishes of the battle but had received a severe shoulder wound from one of the hundreds of arrows fired at the Crusaders. This hindered his progress when the army began to retreat to Jerusalem. Gabriel had been riding, and fighting, with Henri and his detachment for much of the time but Gabriel's injury meant Henri had to leave him behind when his order were amongst the first to leave the battlefield. Gabriel was unable to defend himself and he was eventually captured and taken to Syrian Antioch for torture and eventually death.
When he arrived in Antioch Gabriel was immediately taken to a dungeon where his ordeal began. His hands and feet were manacled and he was initially thrown with the other prisoners into a dark, damp and rat infested dungeon. They were fed on stale bread and barely drinkable water once a day. One by one they were taken to an open area inside the dungeon complex to be whipped, beaten, tortured and eventually beheaded. Gabriel listened day and night to the blood curdling screams of those prisoners taken before him resigned that eventually it would be his turn.
Many of Gabriel's fellow prisoners were given a merciful death from battle wound infections, fever, starvation or dysentery. Gabriel himself hoped for the same luck as he developed a fever due his wound becoming infected but he survived.
The chief of the guards had identified Gabriel shortly after his arrival in the dungeon as a prize possession and he decided if Gabriel survived his fever he would be sparred torture and death. With his heart shaped face, pale ski, shoulder length blonde hair, young lean and muscled body, long eyelashes and perfectly oval shaped sea blue eyes Gabriel stood out amongst his follower prisoners. Gabriel was not just a rare object of great beauty but the chief guard knew he would be an object of sexual attention and a source of income.
The first incident occurred two weeks after Gabriel arrived in Antioch when it became apparent to the chief guard that Gabriel would survive the fever he had developed. Gabriel was taken into a separate room by the guards, he was striped naked and his arms were tied behind his back. The chief guard arrived and circled around Gabriel looking at his body, touching him and signaled for the guards to assist him. Two guards forced Gabriel face down onto a table while the chief guard lashed Gabriel to the table. His legs were separated and tied to the table legs. Gabriel struggled against his attackers he had seen them tie up and rape another prisoner and knew that he too was to be attacked. The chief guard untied his trousers and forced his hard cock into Gabriel's body. Gabriel struggled to try and free himself, and shouted at them to stop and release him, but he was hit by another guard and spat on.
All the guards took turns to violate him and when they finished two guards were ordered to take him to a room away from the main prisoners. Gabriel fought them and managed to free himself from their grip and grab the dagger from a sheath hanging from the belt of one of the guards. He stood his ground and moved the knife in the air to try and scare them and he grazed one of them on the arm. It was a short-lived victory and freedom with nowhere to go Gabriel was grabbed by three more guards and beaten and kicked to the floor unconscious.
When he awoke Gabriel found he was in a circular room he assumed to be a dungeon under the turret of the castle he was held in. He was naked, hanging from the ceiling; his feet some distance above the ground. His hands were tied to a metal bar above his head. The bar was attached to a metal chain, which could be raised or lowered by a pulley system. He was suspended over a large circular wooden covering set into the dungeon floor. Gabriel tried to wriggle his way free of the bindings on his wrists but the movement caused the chains to rattle and alerted the guards that he was awake.
The chief guard entered the room and began shouting at Gabriel in a language he obviously didn't understand. He did understand that he was being punished when the chief guard removed a whip from the wall behind where Gabriel hung and he began whipping him hard. The whip was barbed at the ends and as it hit Gabriel he felt the barbs piercing his skin. Thankfully Gabriel counted only ten lashes. He felt relief it was over but sadness that the guard had not whipped him to death to end his misery. After what they had done to him Gabriel wanted to just die and he assumed that he would now be tortured further and executed. The door opened and two guards came in and removed the circular cover from the floor to reveal a large hole. Gabriel now hung over it and he felt sure he would be released from the wrist bindings and dropped into the hole.
The chief guard approached with a small burning torch he had lite from the torches spread about the walls lighting the dungeon. He dropped the torch into the hole and Gabriel looked down to see it descend out of sight. He then threw a stone down the hole that again descended out of view until Gabriel heard a faint sound as it hit the bottom. Gabriel understood he was being shown how deep the hole he was about to be thrown into was. He would be injured on impact and die slowly unable to escape. The guards laughed.